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Work Cabinet with Mechanism

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Table "à la Bourgogne"  

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Studio Sébert

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

The royal cabinetmaker Jean-François Oeben designed several pieces of furniture with mechanisms, including an armchair, to make life easier for the disabled young duke of Burgundy, Louis XV's eldest grandson (hence the origin of the generic term "Burgundy-style furniture"). Noted for the beauty of his forms, Oeben has invented a table with a particularly ingenious mechanism, veneered with a geometric design influenced by classical Greek motifs.

A remarkable mechanism

Oeben's description of the table as "Burgundy-style" recalls the disability of the young duke of Burgundy, eldest grandson of Louis XV (1751-60), for whom the cabinetmaker had already produced a mechanized invalid chair. When closed, this "table" looks like a chest of five drawers. However, the operation of a crank causes a hidden bookcase to rise out of the top.The curved ends of the bookcase contain folding circular shelves lined with blue moiré, supporting two round boxes covered in the same fabric. The two top drawers in fact form a drop front that can be lowered into a small writing table. The bottom drawer converts into a prie-dieu (prayer-stool) and the drawer just above it can be used as a bedside table. This drawer may also be taken out completely and placed on folding feet. The Burgundy-style table can thus act as a bookcase, prie-dieu, writing-desk and bedside table.

A complex geometric veneer

Oeben's virtuoso furniture is characterized by highly inventive forms and an equally innovative use of veneer. The geometric designs on the exterior of this Burgundy-style table are complemented by friezes on the inside. At the end of Louis XV's reign, the highly fashionable Transition style featured background designs based on the repetition of a geometric figure. Oeben specialized in veneers based on a cube motif, using diamond-shaped pieces of different-colored woods to create an illusion of endless rows of three-dimensional blocks.

Jean-François Oeben and the Greek style

Jean-François Oeben was appointed cabinetmaker to the king in 1754, and designed furniture for Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour. His early career was marked by the Louis XV style, but he was later influenced by the Greek Revival of 1760-65. The Louvre Burgundy-style table bears witness to this evolution. Its curved forms recall the Louis XV style, as do the gilt-bronze mounts (the bronze handles themselves are not original). The geometric decoration is more forward-looking, however, heralding the emergence of neo-classicism.

Bibliography

Alcouffe Daniel, Dion-Tenenbaum Anne and Lefébure Amaury, Le Mobilier du musée du Louvre, vol. I, Dijon, Éditions Faton, 1993, pp. 184, 185.
Pradère Alexandre, Les Ébénistes français de Louis XIV à la Révolution, Paris, Éditions Chêne, 1989, p. 253.

Technical description

  • Estampillé : Jean-François OEBEN

    Table "à la Bourgogne"  

    Vers 1760

    Paris

  • Placage de satiné, de bois de violette, de sycomore et d'amarante ; bronze doré ; marbre griotte rouge

    H. : 1,43 m. ; L. : 0,70 m. ; Pr. : 0,51 m.

  • Provenance : duc de Bourgogne, collection Léon ReinachDon de M. René Penard y Fernández, en souvenir de son frère Richard, 1960 , 1960

    OA 10001

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Stamped with the maker's mark of Oeben (on the prie-dieu)